Can "feel" be taught or does it more likely come from within?

mrfingers

Senior Member
Immersion is the key to “feel” or playing to the music traditionally:
What have drummers done in each genre? Not much, mostly accents, constant-pronounced beats/rhythms?
 

GruntersDad

Honorary Lifetime CEO
Staff member
I think it can be learned or attained through a lot of playing, but I don't think there is a book or teacher with a formula.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
I think it comes from within.
Some are the real deal and there are also those who fancy themselves to be the real deal.
Honesty cultivates effort and confidence, and if you love it, it shows.
 

jaymandude

Active Member
I have a friend who plays with the Basie band. And we were talking a few years ago about drummers who don’t swing and I said to him, and he agreed, “you have to want to swing “

And it’s kind of the same with the feel. You have to really want it to feel good, you need to focus on the music feeling good. That’s all. And playing with other people. Not ego, not where you can play loud, not how fast you can play, not how strong or anything having to do with the physical nature of the drums.

Just playing with people and making music. Period
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Maybe, maybe not. I recall a scientific article where people actually "felt" things differently, due to genetic mutations in piezo1/piezo2 genes, kind of like people see colors differently, or hear things differently (perfect pitch relative pitch etc.).

 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
Maybe, maybe not. I recall a scientific article where people actually "felt" things differently, due to genetic mutations in piezo1/piezo2 genes, kind of like people see colors differently, or hear things differently (perfect pitch relative pitch etc.).

That’s interesting I’ve gotten poor touch (a sensory processing issue) and poor hearing. I wonder what side of the family dumped their crappy genes on me?

I’ve always gotten comments I play with feel. But I’ve considered I play by feel- since self-taught. Cause I think when I hear music it activates my auditory, memory and motor pathways such my limbs just start moving ( been doing so since when I started at 8). I don’t really think about it, more instinct and response to music, however I do memorize songs and finalize how I want to play them. It’s always felt like a natural thing like some people take to art. My brain really enjoys noodling and grooving to some good music as I age. I feel like it’s great brain exercise now I’m old.
 

TMe

Senior Member
A local guitar player is one such dude. A few times a year, I share a stage with him. He's all over the place:
- Impossible to follow.
- Zero communication skills.
- Oblivious to anyone else around him.
That sounds like a good friend of mine. He sounds great on his own, but I don't jam with him because he can't keep time and I can't follow him. I just encourage him to keep up his solo acoustic guitar playing, and forget about playing with other people. After playing guitar for about 45 years, he finally bought a metronome just recently. I think it's a bit late.
 

Drumdame

Silver Member
Played a festival this past weekend with several bands. As I was sitting around watching them, one band in particular had a fantastic drummer, but the fills and even some of the grooves didn't "fit" that music that great. The band was playing your average "bar band top 100" music.

This led me to thinking about having a "feel" for playing certain music. I know for me, switching from playing rock and roll to country was more of a transition in "feel" than my switching between any other genre. I mean, I could play the notes with no problem when I first started, but it took me a while to begin to make the music feel right. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten away with not changing too much, but I really wanted to make the music I was playing sound the best that it could be, so I worked hard on changing my playing. I've come a long way to changing my feel to country music, but I still have a ways to go! When it comes to "feel" in music, I know I had to teach myself when it came to country, but I had NO problems figuring it out for rock-n-roll.

So my question is this: Can "feel" for certain music be taught or is it more natural?
PorkPieGuy,

I am no expert by any means but I can tell you only from my own experience that I have tried different genres when I first started drumming that just felt so natural to me the second I started playing... I was in the groove and I had never played that song before. I mean I was feeling it!

I was even questioning myself, saying "wow is my expertise in Jazz now?" because I love Rock!

Also for me, if I play a song that I don't really know and play it enough then I begin to feel it no matter the genre.

I think after some time you might get to "feel" the country Groove but if it doesn't happen it doesn't make you any less of a good drummer. I hope this helps, good luck!

Drummer_D
 

TMe

Senior Member
So my question is this: Can "feel" for certain music be taught or is it more natural?
To me, "feel" is dynamics, which mostly means tiny changes in timing, volume, phrasing, and choice of idiom. If that's what "feel" is, then I think it can be taught, and I think it is taught, all the time. If a person has listened to and played one style of music all their life, it can require a whole lot of work to make all the adjustments required to learn a new "feel". The frustrating part is that most other people won't even hear the difference - at least not on a conscious level.
...if the person wants to be taught and wants to immerse and practice that much.
I lived with a grade-school teacher who said "Nobody can teach anybody anything. All you can do is create a learning environment." That makes sense to me. The last step, the actual learning, needs to be done by the student.

The immersion thing is an odd one. I'm slowly trying to become a Blues drummer, and the same people who tell me "feel" can't be taught don't understand why I'm listening to a lot of Blues music. They understand why someone learning to speak French would want to enroll in a "French immersion" program, but they can't see how immersing oneself in a style of music might help a musician become more fluent in that style. Weird.
 

moxman

Silver Member
To me, "feel" is dynamics, which mostly means tiny changes in timing, volume, phrasing, and choice of idiom.
Yes I see 'feel' as the result of meshing many things together like those listed above.
Probably easier to pick out out examples of 'bad feel'.. like sloppy time, awkward phrasing, poor dynamics etc. etc.

If fills are awkward.. then usually the drummer isn't thinking musically or melodically in tune with the song..
Sometimes feel can be degraded by thinking too much.. overthinking can kill your feel. Best to not think and just play in the moment.. by doing so you are listening more and 'hearing' what you want to play.

So yeah.. I think it can be taught but there are a lot of factors that go into it under the hood -
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
Nobody taught me feel. But my feel has improved a lot over the years.

My drumming came in 2 phases, the first of which ended around 1984. I knew nothing and at the time, didn't want to know, because I was great already (not). My 2nd phase started in 2003. At this point, I wanted the feel. Bad. It finally started coming together in 2008. It developed little by little. I guess I taught myself feel mainly by listening hard to my gig recordings. Cringey stuff I played...was my personal motivator to improve. I got better by subtraction. Whatever I cringed over got replaced. Mainly with just keeping the time or varying the dynamics. If I didn't cringe, it stayed. I think feel comes with maturity and listening hard to gig recordings. I mean I didn't want to embarrass myself. I knew my stock was rising when my local heros started asking me to play with them. I think feel can be taught and I also think it comes from within. It's both IMO
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
That’s interesting I’ve gotten poor touch (a sensory processing issue) and poor hearing. I wonder what side of the family dumped their crappy genes on me?

I’ve always gotten comments I play with feel. But I’ve considered I play by feel- since self-taught. Cause I think when I hear music it activates my auditory, memory and motor pathways such my limbs just start moving ( been doing so since when I started at 8). I don’t really think about it, more instinct and response to music, however I do memorize songs and finalize how I want to play them. It’s always felt like a natural thing like some people take to art. My brain really enjoys noodling and grooving to some good music as I age. I feel like it’s great brain exercise now I’m old.

When there are widely dispersed genes usually, they confer some benefit. A good example are certain types of color blindness, which my wife is a carrier for, we're watching my son so far he seems to know most of his colors. However, its fine, like one in six men have it, and can be associated with faster reflexes, higher visual acuity, better pattern recognition, etc.

I think genetics underlying feel, aren't understood as well as sight.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
The “fantastic” drummer you mentioned doesn’t sound fantastic at all. He didn’t play appropriately, from what you described. He sounds more like a drummer who lacks the discipline to play what’s right for the job. I’d bet the farm that what’s appropriate would’ve been “boring” to him. That’s usually how it plays out.

I agree. I didn't want to tear another drummer down, so I used the word "fantastic" because he obviously has the chops to do some great things. It wasn't terribly tasteful though. :)
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
This might be a slight hi-jack diversion but I would love to hear about the specifics of your changes in feel. I'm just recently making the same transition and am curious about your experience and what it might reach me about my own.

I think it was a change in attitude. If you'll pardon the analogy, I sort of think about being a rock drummer like driving a sporty convertible. It's fast, a little flashy, and it's primary concern is getting the driver from point A to point B. Being a country drummer is more like driving a Chevy 3500 diesel. While technically it can go fast, it's not noticed by the general public. The driver does not care about being seen as much as it is about working and having that strong torque that pulls everyone along comfortably at the same pace. It's that steady, easy, yet very strong pulling pace that makes it all fit together. It's almost like rock drummers have the horsepower you want, but country drummers have the torque you actually need.

How that translates to playing? I think country music tends to "breathe" a little more than rock music does, so I have to leave a little more sonic space for the other instruments to flourish and shine. I try to be more intentional in my playing and less "GRRR!" and bombastic. While overplaying in rock is bad, it's downright catastrophic in country music. I still feel like I support the music, but it's done in a cleaner and consistent way.

I don't know if any of this makes sense, but it does to me, and I hope it does to you too!
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I’ll bite

I went from playing more rock and soul to playing country. I had a pretty good swing feel and blues/ Basie shuffle but on the country shuffles I listened to the notes are tighter, not as broad. Merle Haggard vs Art Blakey

This is gold. Thank you!
 

ottog1979

Senior Member
How that translates to playing? I think country music tends to "breathe" a little more than rock music does, so I have to leave a little more sonic space for the other instruments to flourish and shine. I try to be more intentional in my playing and less "GRRR!" and bombastic. While overplaying in rock is bad, it's downright catastrophic in country music. I still feel like I support the music, but it's done in a cleaner and consistent way.
Thank you. This is awesome! And, it's in-line with what I'm experiencing which tells me I'm on the right track: Keeping it simple, focus on good note placement with lots of space.
 
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